The Brabham dynasty in F1 is one that has been lost for over two decades, but thanks to a crowdfunding scheme on Indegogo, the team are looking to return to racing, starting with an LMP2 team. David Brabham is the pioneering mind behind, and team principal of, Project Brabham. He, like his father, is a racing legend whose surname is one of the most prolific in the sport, but a quick handshake confirmed to me that he was in fact human, which is good to know.
The team’s stand at Autosport International presented us with the chance to chat with former racer – and now team manager – David Brabham… so we did!
Charlie Eustice (CE): Hi David, fantastic to meet you.
David Brabham (DB): Nice to meet you too.
CE: Apologies if I’m a bit nervous, this is my first time doing this!
DB: First time at a convention, or first time interviewing?
CE: Both really – first time at Autosport, and the first time interviewing someone of this magnitude.
DB: (laughs) Well don’t worry, I’m quite easy-going.
CE: Great to hear. So, Project Brabham was started with a crowdfunding project on Indegogo, what’s the idea behind that?
DB: Well as you may have seen in our promo videos, Sir Stirling Moss has quite rightly said that with the expenses in motorsport now, it’s the only way you really do it, through fan contributions.
CE: What will Brabham-Digital do differently to social media that’s already being used in F1 and other motor racing?
DB: Looking at what’s going on in the sport, what’s needed in the sport, and finding a solution to some of the issues that some of the teams have, we’re creating Brabham-Digital, which is going to be the gateway to our race teams so we can grow.
We intend it to be very open and we want to share our knowledge with the people who support us. People will have access – fans, drivers, engineers – into everything we do. As we grow, hopefully the Digital base will grow with us.
CE: The team has been absent from racing for over 20 years, what made you decide that now was the time to come back?
DB: It just felt right really, we’ve decided that this year we want to go and do the World Endurance Championship whenever we get the funding to go racing as we still have that to do. We want to do that for a few years in LMP2, become a manufacturer and develop our own car with engineers from around the world.
CE: How competitive do you anticipate being in the series?
DB: With some of the world’s best mechanics, think we would be fairly competitive, but it’s not just about that for us. There’s an award now called the Michelin Green X challenge. When I was racing in America in the American Le Mans Series I said to them, “You need to promote people who are efficient as well as fast.”
I gave them the basic idea for it, and three or four years later, the Green X Challenge was launched so they blame me for that! I’m really keen to race in something that drives efficiency.
CE: Do you have anyone lined up to supply engines yet?
DB: No, it’s too early to say yet. But one day, it would be nice to see Brabham back in Formula 1.
CE: It would indeed. The outset of Project Brabham mentioned maybe Formula E as well…
DB: We were looking at it this year. I think we would have been the third team that signed up, I had an investor that was interested, but it didn’t happen so we put that one to bed.
We looked at different ways we could bring the name back to racing, and the idea [of Project Brabham] came about.
CE: From what I’ve heard of your plans, regarding the open nature of Brabham-Digital, it sounds like Formula E – if you don’t mind my recommendation – would be perfect for you, considering things like FanBoost, and interactivity with its fans.
DB: Yes, although it will be interesting to see how that series goes. I’ve seen too many of those series come and go; it needs a lot of money behind it over the next 5 years to gain some momentum. It’s at the point where it’s competing with Formula 1 right now which has been around since, well, forever!
CE: Everyone remembers the beautiful white and blue Parmalat-sponsored cars (Above) of the 70s and 80s. Is there any possibility of a similar livery when you return?
DB: The livery is not something that’s been determined as yet. We’ve got a fantastic history at Brabham, from the green and gold of when my dad was driving, to the white and blue of the Bernie Ecclestone-Nelson Piquet era.
This is a new beginning, so I think we’ll end up coming with something different, because it differentiates the distinct eras of the team. What that looks like we don’t know yet. It may be a case of phoning up and saying to different agencies “what do you think of this” with what we’re doing.
CE: With the open nature of what Brabham-Digital sounds like it will be, would it be the case that the fans may end up deciding the appearance?
DB: Yes, we would give options and see what people vote. We might have three or four different options of livery and design of the cars and the trucks and what the team looks like, and see what the community think. But, say if we grow to have 200,000 to 300,000 people, how do you manage all of that? Let’s say 30,000 all have different ideas. That’s unmanageable.
We would dictate the ideas, and see what the community think of them. The fans will have an influence quite a few things.
CE: You mentioned Bernie Ecclestone back there. Obviously, he owned the team for a while back in the ’70s and ’80s. Is there any chance of a collaboration now?
DB: No (laughs). I hadn’t thought about that actually, but he’s doing his own thing, and we’re doing our own thing, but I wouldn’t really want to work together.
CE: Thank you very much for this opportunity David, I wish you every success!
Project Brabham still needs additional funding to enable them to go racing. You can donate via their page on Indegogo from as little as £1, or if you’ve got a bit of spare cash, you can pledge a bit more and get some cool rewards!